CSA Exclusive: AT&T sees retail reinvention in wake of COVID-19
Retailers are pursuing strategies including supply chain diversification as they seek to restore and grow from pre-COVID-19 levels of revenue.
Chain Store Age recently spoke with Michael Colaneri, VP of retail, restaurant and hospitality at AT&T, about what he sees as the key technology and supply chain trends that will affect retail during 2021. Following is an overview of Colaneri’s thoughts on a number of these trends.
Customer digital proficiency: “Digital proficiency among consumers has skyrocketed during the pandemic. For Gen X, millennials and Gen Z, it was already there. Baby boomers were somewhat proficient before the pandemic, and now even the senior generation before them has basic proficiency.”
Call centers become critical: “Retailers had to fortify their call centers because everyone was on remote infrastructure. Call centers also are being inundated with volumes of e-commerce product inquiries, sales and returns they have never seen before. Ten years of volume showed up in 90 days, and that shows no signs of abating.”
Customer experience: “Cashless and contactless transactions, self-service, and curbside pickup will not go away when the pandemic subsides. Emergency protocols were put in place that spoiled already spoiled digital consumers, and they now expect them. Retailers will leverage customer data to figure out what’s moving and not moving, and focus on the SKUs that sell.”
Supply chain efficiency and diversification: “No algorithm could predict what happened to supply chains in 2020. Retailers want to insulate themselves against unpredictable shocks moving forward. This includes ensuring supply chain visibility and tracking, as well as diversifying supply chains. Retailers’ supply chain relationships have been in place a long time. Relationships matter, but should not stand in the way of fulfillment or break the bank. Retail may follow the supply chain model of the auto industry, where an all-points-bulletin is put out for a part and whomever delivers it first makes the sale.”
Brick-and-mortar stores: “As we proliferate vaccination and restore the global economy, retailers will allow brick-and-mortar commerce to return in ways that don’t jeopardize public health. A certain amount of the population will resume sociability in consumerism once it is permissible. With less traffic in stores, there will be more priority given to consumer loyalty.”
Working from home: “During the summer, businesses found that productivity didn’t slow as a result of working from home and there was a cost savings from getting rid of cube farms. But productivity hasn’t been as fluid with junior employees, especially new hires, whose growth and development has slowed down when there is nobody to observe or ask questions. Companies are backtracking from full remote and moving to a new flex work dimension.”
Ensuring post-pandemic survival: “Retailers who were already in trouble when the pandemic hit were among the early casualties of COVID-19. There will not be fewer retailers post-pandemic, but there will not be all the same players. Retailers following legacy models fell apart quickly and continue to lose market share. Fast-growing retailers are those that have core e-commerce capability with fulfillment and merchandising built around it.”